Government shows urgency in climate change battle

March 05, 2021 | 09:00
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In a bid to ensure sustainable development and economic growth, the government has enacted a fresh action programme on continuing response to climate change, with new mechanisms in favour of private investment.
1533 p22 government shows urgency in climate change battle
As Vietnam is among the most threatened countries by climate change, the state and people take decisive action, photo Le Toan

The government has promulgated Resolution No.06/NQ-CP on the Action Programme on continuing the implementation of Resolution No.24-NQ/TW by the 11th Party Central Committee on active response to climate change, improvement of natural resource management, and environmental protection.

The action programme, to be implemented until 2025, lays a foundation for ministries, agencies, and localities to formulate and implement their own plans on responding to climate change while strengthening natural resource management and environmental protection.

Under the programme, efforts are to be made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.3 per cent below the business-as-usual scenario by 2025, and achieve 5-7 per cent in energy conservation out of gross energy consumption.

To this end, some key solutions are to be taken. Specifically, the government orders ministries and agencies to formulate and implement sturdy policies on shifting to digital economy, and development and expansion of models on circular economy, green economy, and low-carbon economy.

In addition to an increase in state budget in investing into responding to climate change, and managing natural resources and the environment, the government will have a flexible mechanism on allocating the use of natural resources under a market mechanism. Notably, the government will “develop markets for environmental goods and services, the carbon market, public-private partnership models, and green credits and green bonds, as well as mobilise investment capital from non-state sources,” according to Resolution 06.

To enable investors, Resolution 06 stressed that a number of related laws will be revised soon, including the Law on Land 2013, the Law on Minerals 2010, and the Law on Efficient Use and Saving Energy, as well as many other related documents.

Championing the cause

Disaster and climate challenges have become a top priority for policymakers in Vietnam. This is evidenced in national and sector strategies, and these challenges are identified as one of the key pillars of the new national development plan for the next decade. For example, the government approved the National Climate Change Strategy in 2011, and the Vietnam Green Growth Strategy in 2012, which lay out a vision through 2050. Also, the government adopted the Support Programme to Respond to Climate Change for 2016-2020 that supports policy reform, capacity building, and increased investment for prioritised climate change and green growth actions in key sectors including energy, transport, forestry, and water resource management.

Internationally, the government has also championed the cause of the environment, including at the 2015 Paris Conference.

Climate and disaster risks are now recognised as a direct threat to Vietnam’s aspiration to become a high-income economy. Direct and indirect disaster losses are affecting not only the economy’s resilience and sustainability, but also its capacity to maintain rapid and inclusive growth. For instance, rapid infrastructure development in the absence of the consideration of disaster and climate risks is leading to rapidly growing exposure and vulnerabilities to adverse natural events.

“With an anticipated growth of 265 per cent over the next 10 years, annual average direct disaster losses on the coast alone are expected to grow to $4.2 billion a year,” stated the World Bank in its recently-published report on how Vietnam can become a champion of the green recovery.

The Asian Development Bank also said that the rapid expansion of gross fixed capital formation has been unplanned and without consideration of climate and disaster risks, leading to the rapid growth in people and assets exposed to adverse natural events. When all this environmental damage is combined, it is estimated to cost between 4 to 8 per cent to GDP every year due to a combination of direct negative effects on the stock of natural capital, as well as that of indirect externalities on labour productivity and on quality of physical infrastructure.

In addition, development gains could be undermined by the loss of human life; destruction of commercial property, cultivable land, and infrastructure; reduction in agricultural yields and labor productivity; loss of tax revenues; and strained public budgets from spending on relief and reconstruction. For example, farmers in the Mekong region have already recorded declining agricultural yields caused by poor development practices, including water mismanagement and land exhaustion, according to the World Bank.

Changing behaviours

“Vietnam is standing at a crossroads of post-pandemic recovery. It has an opportunity to set itself on a greener, smarter, and more inclusive development path that will bolster resilience to future shocks from both pandemics and climate-related disasters,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank country director for Vietnam. “The authorities must tackle the environmental and climate challenges with the same sense of urgency as they have done with COVID-19 because the costs of inaction are already visible and will become increasingly irreversible. The recent tropical storms in Vietnam’s central region and rising air pollution in the country’s major cities are good illustrations of this fragility.”

According to the World Bank, two lessons from the successful management of the global health crisis could be extended to the environmental agenda. The first lesson is that the best way to cope with an external shock is to be prepared in advance and move with early and bold actions. Secondly, beyond vision and capacity, the ability to embrace innovation and experiments is instrumental to change individual and collective behaviours, which lays at the root of strategies to cope with health and climate threats.

Ocean levels have already risen 20cm over the past three decades and could increase by a further 75cm by 2050 compared to the latter part of the 20th century. This could lead to flooding of 40 per cent of the Mekong Delta, 11 per cent of the Red River Delta, 3 per cent of coastal provinces, and over 20 per cent of Ho Chi Minh City, directly impacting 10-12 per cent of Vietnam’s population and 10 per cent of GDP, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

By Khoi Nguyen

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